Superpowers in Conflict

Daniel 8

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
September 2018

We have been studying the Book of Daniel and we have come to the eighth chapter of the book.  It is a chapter that on the surface does not seem that exciting.  It reads like a chapter of animal farm but, when you see what is really in this chapter, you will see why this chapter is very important.  This is one chapter that liberals HATE.  It is because of this chapter that liberal scholars do not believe that Daniel wrote this book.

The chapter was written around 550 or 551 BC.  Daniel predicts in this chapter what would take place in history hundreds of years before it happened with incredible detail.  Let’s assume that America right now is the leading power in the world today.

What Daniel did would be like me predicting what the next leading power would be after America is in complete decline and the power that takes over as leader of the world after the second nation is in decline and the one that takes over after the third nation is in decline.  That is exactly what Daniel did.  Liberals do not believe that this is possible.  It is impossible for man to make these kinds of predictions, but it is not impossible for God.  Let’s review what we learned about this part of Daniel.

We said last week that there are two parts to Daniel.  The first part of the book is mostly NARRATIVE.  It is mostly stories (Daniel in the lion’s den, the fiery furnace, handwriting on the wall).  The second part of the book is mostly PROPHECY.  In the first part of the book, pagans receive visions and dreams and cannot interpret them.  Daniel is called in and interprets the dreams.

In the second part of the book, Daniel is the one who receives some visions and he cannot interpret them.  From Daniel 7-12, Daniel receives four visions and he tells us when he received them, and these visions are all dated.

In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed (Daniel 7:1 NIV)

In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign, I, Daniel, had a vision, after the one that had already appeared to me. (Daniel 8:1 NIV)

In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom (Daniel 9:1 NIV)

In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war. The understanding of the message came to him in a vision. (Daniel 10:1 NIV)

Today, we are going to look at Daniel’s second vision which came two years after the first one.  It came to him when the Babylonians were in power.  It is a vision that Daniel did not understand.  An angel had to tell him what it meant.  It is a vision actually made Daniel sick (Daniel 8:27).

The first one was a vision about some animals and the second one is also a vision about animals.  In both visions, the animals are symbolic.

They represent nations or countries but not just any country.  They represent what we would call today superpowers.  These empires were successive.  They came one right after the other.

The first vision had FOUR ANIMALS.  One was like a bear.  One was like a lion. One was like an eagle and the fourth one could not even be compared to any known animal.  It was part animal and part machine.  It had iron teeth and bronze claws.

The second vision only has TWO ANIMALS, a ram and a goat.  Why only two?  When this vision was given, Belshazzar was in power.  The Babylonians were ruling the world.  This vision focused on the next two powers that would dominate the world, the second and third kingdoms (Medo-Persia and Greece).  These two animals have a fierce battle, a head butting contest and the goat wins.  The goat defeats the ram, which almost sounds like a football game.  Today, we want to look at what this vision means prophetically and how it applies to us.

Overview of the Chapter

First, let’s get an overview of this chapter.  Let’s look at the big picture.  What happens in this chapter?

1) Daniel travels hundreds of miles in a vision

This is interesting.  Daniel have lived about sixty years in Babylon and now he takes a trip in a vision.  He gets teleported two hundred and thirty miles east of Babylon.  The same thing happened to Ezekiel.  Daniel had been living in Babylon and now God supernaturally transports him to Elam in Persia (modern-day Iran) right by the Ulai Canal.  That sounds more like the name of a politician (“you-lie”) than a canal.

What happened to Daniel also happened to the prophet Ezekiel.  Ezekiel was in Babylon and God grabbed him by the lock of his hair and took him to Jerusalem to see what was going on in the temple (Ezekiel 8:3ff.).

Daniel is transported to a small town called Susa.  God was saying that the capital was going to change. It would be like saying, “The capital is no longer going to be Washington, DC but a minor town of some other country”

2) Daniel sees two animals

I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. 4 I watched the ram as it charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against it, and none could rescue from its power. It did as it pleased and became great. (Daniel 8:3-4 NIV)

It starts with a ram.  What does the ram represent?  two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia (Daniel 8:20 NIV). That represents Persia which conquered west, north and south, just like Daniel said (Daniel 8:4). It expanded in three directions.

Babylon was the power of the world until it was conquered by Medo Persia (two horns).  Those two verses cover two hundred years of history.  This ram and remained the dominant power in the world for two hundred years until a goat with one horn between its eyes, which is an ugly looking goat, came and charged the ram, knocked it to the ground, broke its two horns and stepped all over this ram (Daniel 8:7).

What do we know about this ram?  It came from the west (Daniel 8:5).  Greece is west of Persia.  This ram was angry.  Greece was attacked by this country and this was revenge.  It was also fast.  He ran so fast that his feet did not touch the ground (Daniel 8:5).  This goat was like the roadrunner.  It had lightning speed.  He conquered the world in only ten years.

Was he a success?  In one sense he was.  He studied under Aristotle.  He was a military genius.  He began to conquer Persia when he was only twenty-two and conquered this country in only three years and he did it with less troops.  He did it even though he was completely outnumbered.  The Persians had a million-man army.  Alexander only had forty thousand troops, but he struck quickly with small groups of people.

In another sense, he was not very successful.  He was an alcoholic.  His father was murdered.  His two sons were murdered.  That’s why they never succeeded him, and he dies prematurely at the height of his power in the prime of his life at the age of thirty-two (Daniel 8:8 NIV).  After he dies, his kingdom is split up among his four generals and it was never as strong as it was before.

3) Daniel sees two angels

He sees two supernatural beings (Daniel 8:15ff.), two angels but these were not ordinary angels.  One of them was the angel Gabriel.  Most of us will never see an ordinary angel.  Daniel saw one of God’s top angels.  When Gabriel came over to him, he did not say, “I have always wanted to meet you.”  He was terrified.  He was petrified.

Daniel is an old man.  He is in his seventies.  He sees the angel Gabriel and, before Gabriel even says anything, Daniel falls flat on his face.  His face is on the ground and he goes right to sleep.  He falls into a deep sleep.

17 As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. “Son of man,” he said to me, “understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.”

18 While he was speaking to me, I was in a deep sleep, with my face to the ground. Then he touched me and raised me to my feet. (Daniel 8:15-18 NIV).

Daniel becomes the first person in the Bible to be “touched by an angel” (Daniel 8:18).  This was not any angel.  Daniel is the only one in the OT who is said to have met this angel.  There are two more people in the NT who meet him.  He makes two birth announcements in the NT.  Five hundred years later, he tells an old man and a young girl about a baby being born.  It happens in Luke 1.

One believed him and the other did not.  Zechariah was told that his wife would become pregnant with John the Baptist.  Mary was told that she would be the mother of the Messiah. Apparently, Gabriel does not just make birth announcements.  In Daniel 8, he interprets Daniel’s vision for him.  He tells him what it means.

4) He sees another little horn

The goat became very great, but at the height of its power the large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven.

9 Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. 10 It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. 11 It set itself up to be as great as the commander of the army of the Lord; it took away the daily sacrifice from the Lord, and his sanctuary was thrown down. 12 Because of rebellion, the Lord’s people and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground. (Daniel 8:8-12 NIV)

Alexander the Great was the great horn (Daniel 8:5).  He was the flying goat with one horn. When he died the great horn was broken and replaced by four horns (Daniel 8:8).  Out of one of those four came a little horn (DanieL 8:9).  He was a descendant of one of Alexander’s four generals.

There was a little horn in Daniel 7 and now we have a little horn in Daniel 8.  Some think that they are the same person, but they are not.  The little horn in Daniel 7 was a Roman ruler.  He will come out of the fourth kingdom.  This little horn was a Greek ruler.  He came out of the third kingdom.

The first little horn was the Antichrist.  Why are we given a second little horn in this chapter?  This little horn is a type of the Antichrist.  He is the Antichrist of the OT.   If you want to know what the future Antichrist will be like, all you have to do is to look back at this man.

He was the Adolf Hitler of the OT.  His name was Antiochus Epiphanies.  Behind his back, the Jews did not call him Antiochus EPIPHANIES.  They called him Antiochus EPIMANES, “The Mad One.”  Not only was he insane, he was demon possessed.

Who was Antiochus Epiphanies?


Like Hitler, he was a psychopath.  Like Hitler, he was a mass murderer.  He slaughtered 40,000 Jews in three days.  Like Hitler, he was an anti-Semite.  Like Hitler, he tried to commit genocide.  He murdered Jews and boasted about it (I Maccabees 1:24).  He not only slaughtered many Jews (Daniel 8:25) but outlawed the Jewish religion.  The holy festivals were outlawed.  Circumcision was outlawed.  Women who allowed their sons to be circumcised were killed with their sons tied around their necks.  Resting on the Sabbath was forbidden. Owning a copy of the law was illegal.

2) He was PROFANE

Antiochus was a profane man.  He was sacrilegious.  He blasphemed God.  He took his stand against “the Prince of Princes” (Daniel 8:25). He desecrated the Temple.  Antiochus went into the Temple.  He raided the temple.  Without any fear, he went right into the Holy of Holies, which was reserved only for priests.

In fact, he turned it into a temple of Zeus.  He knew that Jews believed that pigs were unclean, so he sacrificed pigs on the altar.  He burned the sacred books.  Copies of the Law of Moses were publicly burned.  He used harlots in the Temple itself.

3) He was PROUD

Antiochus claimed to be god.  The name Epiphanies means “God manifest.”  It means “God made visible.” He proclaimed himself a god on his country’s coins.  He was the first ruler who ever claimed to be God on a coin.

He imprinted on his coins Antiochus, Theos Epiphanes. The coins read “Antiochus God Made Visible.”  He said, in essence, “I am God.  Worship me.”  We know plenty of politicians who have big egos.  None of them call themselves “God manifest.”

Applications for Today

What is the application of this chapter to us today?  It is a chapter about two animals fighting.  To Daniel, this was prophecy but to us it is history.  It is a lesson on history.  We did not come to church just to learn a history lesson about ancient Persia and ancient Greece.  We did not come to church to learn some cool things about Alexander the Great or Antiochus Epiphanies.  What does this chapter say to us today?

Lessons on the Bible

1) There are some parts of the Bible that are hard to understand.

Daniel got divine revelation.  There were rams, flying goats and horns coming out of other horns and he did not understand it.  In fact, even after an angel explained it to him, he still did not completely understand it.

God gave the Bible to be understood.  It is not a book that is impossible to understand but there are some parts of the Bible that are hard to understand.  There are some difficult passages.  There are some tough passages.  Entire denominations have arisen out of some of these passages.

The Apostle Peter said so (II Peter 3:16).  There are some passages in the Bible that Christians do not all agree on.  We like to stay away from the hard parts of the Bible, but God wants us to read them.  He encourages us to read them.  That’s why He puts a special blessing on the Book of Revelation.

2) To understand Scripture, you have to let the Bible interpret itself.

Daniel gets a strange vision of animals.  What do the symbols mean?  We don’t have to guess what they all mean.  We are told at the end of the chapter.

The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. 21 The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes is the first king. (Daniel 8:20-21 NIV)

Why is that important?  If you go on the internet, you can find bizarre interpretations of this chapter.  On the Internet, you will find people who say that Daniel 8 deals with the future of America.  The great horn will be broken and the great horn must be America.  On the Internet, you will find people who say that the stubborn goat king is Donald Trump.  He does have goat-like hair.

When you do not look at the context of the passage and do not let Scripture interpret itself, you will come up with some strange ideas.  Cults are full of these ideas that have absolutely nothing to do with the text.

In the 1800s, a Baptist preacher named William Miller tried to predict the date of the Second Coming of Christ and he had some followers.  He said that Jesus would come back in 1843 and one of the reasons he believed this was because of Daniel 8. He interpreted the number 2300 days to mean 2300 years and somehow came up with the 1843 date.[1]

When Jesus did not come in 1843, he changed the date to October 22, 1844 and he was wrong again and there are many false teachers who are just like him.  They distort and twist Scripture and there are many ignorant people who follow them and are deceived.

3) We can have complete confidence in the trustworthiness of Scripture.

This chapter contains prophecies that are very detailed and very specific.  They are very precise.  Daniel predicted a persecution four hundred years before it happened, and said exactly how long it would last (2300 evenings and mornings).  Let’s think about how incredible it would be to do what Daniel does in this chapter.

Four hundred years ago, the Pilgrims came to America.  That would be like them making specific detailed predictions about things happening in our day.  It would be like Martin Luther in Germany in the 1500s predicting the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich four hundred years later.

The Bible does that.  It is a book that is divinely inspired.  It is a book that you can trust.  It is a book that has already made incredible predictions that have come true.

Josephus tells us a very interesting story.  He was the first-century Jewish historian.  He is generally recognized as a reliable historian.  Josephus tells us an incredible story about Alexander the Great. When he visited Jerusalem in 332 BC, he met the high priest Jaddua, who showed him what the book of Daniel said about him.  Alexander read about himself in the Book of Daniel[2]

Lessons on Evil

1) Evil in the world today is real, acknowledge it

Some people seem to be in denial about evil in the world.  They teach that people are basically good.  The truth is that evil exists.  The devil exits.  People are evil.  They do bad things.  We live in an evil word, a violent world where terrible and unspeakable things happen every day.

There are some evil rulers in the world today, some little horns.  There are some horrible rulers today and there were some horrible rulers in the ancient world.  We have dictators like Adolf Hitler, but Antiochus Epiphanies was the Adolf Hitler of the ancient world.

Anti-Semitism did not start with Hitler.  He was not the first one who attempted genocide.  God allows these little horns to exist.  Some try to use that to prove that God does not exist, but that argument does not work.  Evil exists because free will exists.

2) We are not always protected from evil, prepare for it

We are not immune to sickness.  We are not immune to suffering and we definitely are not immune to persecution.  Jesus said that we should expect it.  He said, “If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you.”  Believers are persecuted for their faith all over the world.

If we are not right now being persecuted for our faith, we should prepare for it, because one day we will.  This chapter is not written so we can just learn about the past but so we can prepare for the future. How will we respond in that situation?  The Jews had a warning about this persecution.  It was given four hundred years in advance.  The chapter was written in Hebrew for the Jews, unlike Daniel 7, which was written in Aramaic.

3) God is in control of all the evil in the world, trust Him

He is sovereign over evil.  He is sovereign over bad things that happen in our nation.  He is sovereign over bad things that happen in our lives.  That is the chief message of Daniel.  God is sovereign even in the darkest times imaginable.  How do we see that in this chapter?

Antiochus Epiphanies was a monster.  He was fierce looking.  He was mean looking (Daniel 8:23) and he did some terrible things to God’s people.  He took away the daily sacrifice (Daniel 8:11).  He threw truth to the ground (Daniel 8:12).  He caused deceit to prosper (Daniel 8:25).  He trampled underfoot the Lord’s people (Daniel 8:13).  He killed MANY of God’s people (Daniel 8:24) and the text says that he was successful in whatever he did (Daniel 8:24).

It looked like he was wining, and God’s people were losing.  Where was God?  How was God sovereign over Antiochus?  God was not

Shocked when Antiochus did all of these things.  He PREDICTED it hundreds of years in advance.  He ALLOWED it to take place.  Daniel says that he did not become strong “by his own power” (Daniel 8:24).

He really did not have any power on his own.  That is why God called him a little horn.  He thought he was a big horn.  God allowed him to do everything that he did.

He also LIMITED how long the evil would last.  It was limited to a period of 2300 evening and mornings (Daniel 8:14).  Evil is not allowed to go unchecked.  Evil rulers are not allowed to do whatever they want for as long as they want.  There is a limit to what they can do.

Their evil is also temporary.  God stepped in and STOPPED Antiochus’ reign of terror.  He was supernaturally destroyed by God.  The little horn was broken but “not by human power” (Daniel 8:25).  He was broken by God himself.

God is sovereign over how long these evil rulers last.  Even when Alexander the great seemed completely invincible, conquering the whole world in ten years.  God broke off his horn at the prime of his life and he was dead.


[2] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XI.8.5.

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